May 2022

Thoughts about…

Something Being Simple But Not Easy

Believe it or not, Tahoe received more snow in April than it did for the combined months of January, February and March! So you’ll see below, if you didn’t already get the YouTube notifications, that I published four more cross-country skiing videos last month. Honestly, I thought I was done making them after my 100th ski day VLOG on March 31st.

Was I ever wrong!

The nice thing about producing those late season videos, however, was that a couple of them provided me with some great food for thought. After skiing during one of the last snowstorms, I had a conversation with my best friend about learning how to perform Telemark turns. I’ve been working on them for the past couple of seasons, and I am getting better. However, I’m far from where I want to be. This if fine, though, because I’m in it for the long haul. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit frustrated with my progress or lack thereof.

Grassy meadow, trees, and snow-capped mountains

Spring meadow on April 10, 2022. © Jared Manninen

While describing my feelings to my friend he said, “It kinda sounds like most things. They’re usually pretty simple, but they’re just not easy to do.” I don’t recall ever hearing someone summing up the process of learning like that before, but it did resonate with me.

We’ve all seen the how-to demonstrations, particularly art-related tutorials.

  1. Draw two circles.
  2. Connect the circles with a line.
  3. Miracle occurs.
  4. Voila! You’ve created a masterpiece.

Those memes are always good for a chuckle. If you’re unfamiliar, just search for learn how to draw memes.

Snow-flocked trees and a forest path

Stormy forest on April 11, 2022. © Jared Manninen

In spite of the comedic element, that scenario often sums up peoples’ experiences when learning something new. Their instructor demonstrates the technique or lesson at full speed, and they make it look so easy.

But we know it’s not easy, right? What we’re really seeing is the sheer amount of time and effort that the instructor has put into their craft or profession. But to our amazement once the instructor slows the technique down to demonstrate its basic steps (and we see the progression of movement), it becomes obvious that those steps actually are pretty simple. They’re just not easy to do when you’re first learning them. This is often because we have to learn a new pattern of body movement or a new way of thinking. Neither of which are easy to integrate into our current selves.

So what’s the secret? How do we graduate from drawing stick figures to something more akin to actual portraits? Or, how do we progress beyond shuffling around on cross-country skis to something that looks closer to a World Cup athlete’s technique?

Diligent training with focused effort and a whole lot of repetition. That’s the secret, which isn’t a secret at all if you’ve ever trained in any discipline before. You simply cannot get better at a thing unless you do it a lot. Of course there are a million smaller steps in between the basic ones. And, you can clearly benefit from having previous experience in adjacent fields or arts or foundational knowledge of the activity in question. But there’s no getting around the fact that you need to log many hours and many miles to get better at any activity.

Snow-covered meadow and snow-capped mountains

Snow-covered meadow on April 12, 2022. © Jared Manninen

One thing that I have found to be effective at accelerating my progress when learning new skills is to adjust my attitude and mindset.

A beneficial aspect to witnessing a professional perform their discipline with ease is that they make it look fun. For example, this is what it could be like once you develop your skills. These are the places you can go. These are the tricks that you can perform. So keep practicing! Don’t get discouraged! It just takes time! Along with that remarkable demonstration, those instructors offer plenty of encouragement and positive feedback.

That’s not a bad mindset to embrace, right? The power of thought or power of suggestion is, well, powerful.

Choosing that mindset is way better than telling ourselves, “Oh, I’m gonna suck at this,” or “I know I’m going to screw this up.” Or, before we even step up to the plate, we start to come up with excuses for why we can’t do this, that, or the other thing.

We do this all of the time when learning new things. It lowers the bar, taking pressure off of us to succeed. And when we do fail, which is often the case with that attitude, we can then say “See, I told you so.” As if creating and then executing self-fulfilling prophecies somehow proves just how in-tune we are with ourselves. But it’s all garbage because it’s all just based on fear.

For example, if I were to say that “I’m going to win!” and then I don’t the letdown is hard. Doubt and uncertainty creeps into our minds after that failure. Then it can take even longer to add victories to the win column because now we’re fearful to take the risks necessary to succeed. Once bitten, twice shy so that saying goes. Or, we avoid that positive mindset and declaration of success because if it doesn’t manifest we potentially open ourselves to ridicule. Of course, this example assumes that we’re surrounded by people less than supportive of our efforts. To that I’d ask, “Why are we surrounding ourselves with those people in the first place?”

River running through a meadow and forest

Inflow to the Boca Reservoir on April 20, 2022. © Jared Manninen

So what am I proposing, then? Is there another option?

You could probably say that what I’m suggesting here is one of the core aspects of my personality. And that’s to stop assigning emotional attachment to the learning process. But it’s also worth considering letting go of emotional attachment in other areas of our lives.

If you know me, then you know that I don’t show much emotion at all. It’s not that I’m walking around pissed off or unhappy all day long. Sure, I become irritated and frustrated as much as the next person and I express that from time to time. But I’d also argue that I experience more joy and happiness than most. I just don’t necessarily show it through smiles and laughter, for example.

The bottom line, and I don’t mean to sound dismissive or nihilistic, is that I just don’t believe that most things in life really matter in the long-term. All of those little things that we get worked up about on a daily basis are insignificant in the grand scheme of life. And we have to believe that because if we don’t we forfeit all of our power to that co-worker who made a nasty comment about us or the person who cut us off on the freeway, for example. Or, we let those times that we fell down while practicing our downhill turns negatively impact every subsequent ski session that involves negotiating a hill of more than ten degrees. Those people and experiences begin to rule our lives because they now occupy so much real estate in our minds. Unless there’s some sort of catastrophic result attached to the experience, will you actually remember it one, five, or ten years from now? And if you don’t believe you will, why should it really matter right now?

Snow-flocked trees in a forest

Snow-flocked trees on April 22, 2022. © Jared Manninen

Perhaps one of the reasons I choose to live like this is that I do believe that there’s an equal and opposite reaction to everything in life. Bliss and euphoria can’t last. It’s just not a sustainable emotional state. So there’s going to be a crash, and it’s probably going to be just as intense. On the other hand, anger and hate aren’t sustainable either. But it’s interesting because you can’t know one without knowing the other. That said, constantly riding that emotional pendulum is exhausting and ultimately debilitating. So I find it way more beneficial not to deny them but, rather, reconcile those feelings in a timely fashion and then move on.

I’ve been hot on the movie Dune lately, so I can’t help but recall Gurney Halleck’s message to the younger Paul Atreides while they train together using edged weapons. Paul states that he’s not in the mood to train with Gurney, to which the older man replies, “Mood? What’s mood to do with it?! You fight when the necessity arises no matter the mood.”

Although most of us may not be preparing for combat, the point remains. Attitude, or mood, affects our training and the process of learning in ways that are not always favorable. I agree that having a positive attitude is better than expressing a negative one. But I wonder if having any attitude at all is even necessary?

For example, is being “in the zone” or in a “state of flow” associated with emotions, moods, or attitudes? I don’t think so. Rather, the experience of flow is being in a total state of immersion. Your only thought is being in the moment and addressing the task at hand. Complete focus, yet not necessarily on a conscious level. You just are.

Water feature in the forest

Snowmelt and runoff on April 30, 2022. © Jared Manninen

For me, this is the joy. It’s less about the smiles and laughter and more about the process, the practice, the repetition, the diligent training. So don’t mistake my question about the necessity of attitude to mean apathy or indifference. The activity in which we participate already holds meaning for us. We wouldn’t be pursuing it otherwise. So, the motivation is there and I shouldn’t have to wait for the mood to strike me. I want to get better. Therefore, I train. Period.

Again, most things are relatively simple to do (i.e. they’re possible to achieve) but they’re not easy (i.e. they take a lot of time and practice). So we don’t need to compound our work by succumbing to the mind games that come with placing emotional attachment to the outcome of our efforts. Let’s not make a bigger production than necessary out of this thing. Instead, let’s just let those feelings pass, drop into that Telemark stance, and continue to practice those downhill turns. And then let’s go back up the hill and do it again, and again, and again…

You’ll probably notice one thing about my bird photos this season, and that’s that I won’t be posting too many bird-in-flight shots. I’m constantly looking down for Lake Tahoe wildflowers nowadays. So, by the time I see birds they’re usually perched in a tree or on a stump in the distance. And because I’m taking a knee every five minutes to photograph those wildflowers (and sometimes actually laying down!), I’m not carrying my heavy and cumbersome wildlife-related camera and lens (Nikon D500 and Nikkor 200-500mm). I’ve tried it once, and I just don’t want to risk damaging the body/lens by dropping it or bumping it on the ground.

So, I travel pretty light these days so that I can get up and down quickly and unencumbered!

As I mentioned above, April yielded more snow at Lake Tahoe than all of January, February, and March. So, I couldn’t help but put on the skis and go make some turns! And, make a couple of xc ski vlogs in the process 😉

I also wanted to take the opportunity to produce two more videos about backcountry cross-country skiing gear. Videos that could be produced in my backyard (not out in the backcountry!). Although most people won’t watch these videos this season, they’re loaded and ready to go for next winter. I’ve found that most of my videos gain more traction as time passes. Essentially, I try to produce “evergreen” projects that aren’t dependent (necessarily) on current events or time-specific scenarios. As long as people are looking for backcountry xc ski gear, for example, these videos should pop up in their recommendations.

Since it encompasses the entire year, I’ll continue to mention that the Tahoe Institute for Natural Science (TINS) is hosting the 2022 Tahoe Wildflower Big Year. If you live in the Tahoe area or even if you’re just visiting, consider signing up for the project on iNaturalist.

So in the spirit of the Tahoe Wildflower Big Year, I intend on writing more natural history articles about the flora/fauna of Lake Tahoe. I realize that my hiking trail articles are generally more viewed by people. And I agree that it’s fun to grind out the miles in order to reach the top of the peak. However, reflective of my process of being a lifelong learner I want to encourage and inspire other people to look a little closer to their surroundings when out of the trail.

Woolly Mule's Ears (Wyethia mollis) & Arrowleaf Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata)

I’ve been diving into iNat since 2019, which was my first Tahoe Wildflower Big Year. iNaturalist is essentially a naturalism-based website that enables you to upload your nature-related “observations.” Your citizen science images and data then contribute to research performed by professionals.

Even if you don’t participate in the Tahoe wildflower project, sign up and start uploading observations from your neighborhood (wherever that may be). It’s super fun as it feels a lot like treasure hunting. I can’t tell you how many cool and helpful people I’ve met on the website, as well as the sheer amount of knowledge I’ve gained about the Tahoe region. As I’ve probably mentioned before, posting on iNat has effectively replaced most of my social media needs. No politics. No photos of peoples’ lunch. And no stupid memes 🙂

Jeffrey Pine Tree
Mustard Flower Rust

Thanks for being a part of my life. Until next time…

-Jared Manninen

Tahoe Trail Guide is an online resource for hiking, backpacking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing in the Lake Tahoe region. In addition to trail data, I offer backcountry “how-to” articles and information about the local and natural history of Tahoe. Tahoe Swag is a collection of art and design products I create based on my love of the outdoors and appreciation for Lake Tahoe and the surrounding Sierra Nevada Mountains.

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Categories: Newsletters
Tags: #2022

Comments (4)

  • Linda Baranowski . May 9, 2022 . Reply

    Nice wildflower and bird pics Jared! I have trout lilies in bloom on the property now..also mauve and white clusters of flowers..not sure what they are yet…I have had a pile of diwney and hairy woodpeckers here..blue Jay’s and chicadees..trying to attract hummingbirds and finches right now…

    I planted a few Hummingbird gardens also! Didn’t have to remove the suet feeders as raccoons prolly got to them..next year I will get new suet feeders and put them away when spring surfaces…those tend to bring in larger animals and I dont want bears here!

    • (Author) Jared Manninen . May 10, 2022 . Reply

      Hey Linda!

      Thanks for the kind words 🙂

      Sounds like you have a great personal wildlife and flower sanctuary at your house! Every year I plan to build some bird boxes, but never seem to take the time to do it. But I do have some Mountain Chickadees that nest in the yard, as well as a Steller’s Jay mating pair. I’ve also had American Robins nest in a tree in the backyard in past years. I don’t do any types of bird feeders, though, because they do tend to attract bears. Instead, I’ve started placing basins of water in the backyard for bird baths. Nothing fancy, no pumps or flowing water (so I refill them with clean water every day), but it’s fun to watch the birds and other little critters use them.

      We’ve been getting more snow these past couple of days, so all of my wildflower hunts have been temporarily put on hold (again!). We need the precipitation, though, so I can’t complain too much 🙂

      Hope you’re doing well!

    • Linda Baranowski . May 26, 2022 . Reply

      I’m getting hummingbirds here now and even saw a pileated woodpecker buzz thru! Red trilliums are just finishing! Have to deal with mosquitoes now…going to go kayaking Sunday in Round/ Kawawaymog Lake which is the 1st of a chain of lakes in northwestern Algonquin park

      • (Author) Jared Manninen . May 27, 2022 . Reply

        Hey Linda!

        That’s very cool that you saw a Pileated Woodpecker (and all of those hummingbirds 🙂 ). We have some mosquitos and other little annoying bugs here, too, especially in the mornings. But we endure in order to embrace the great outdoors 🙂

        I’ve been working like crazy for the past two weeks to get the summer resort (my summer job) ready for business. We’re opening this weekend, so from here on out it’ll be busy. But I’ve also been out looking for Sierra Nevada wildflowers as much as I can. So that’s been really fun.

        Great to hear from you!
        Jared

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